OPEN Foundation

O. Grimm

Psilocybin modulates functional connectivity of the amygdala during emotional face discrimination


Recent studies suggest that the antidepressant effects of the psychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonist psilocybin are mediated through its modulatory properties on prefrontal and limbic brain regions including the amygdala. To further investigate the effects of psilocybin on emotion processing networks, we studied for the first-time psilocybin’s acute effects on amygdala seed-to-voxel connectivity in an event-related face discrimination task in 18 healthy volunteers who received psilocybin and placebo in a double-blind balanced cross-over design. The amygdala has been implicated as a salience detector especially involved in the immediate response to emotional face content. We used beta-series amygdala seed-to-voxel connectivity during an emotional face discrimination task to elucidate the connectivity pattern of the amygdala over the entire brain.

When we compared psilocybin to placebo, an increase in reaction time for all three categories of affective stimuli was found. Psilocybin decreased the connectivity between amygdala and the striatum during angry face discrimination. During happy face discrimination, the connectivity between the amygdala and the frontal pole was decreased. No effect was seen during discrimination of fearful faces. Thus, we show psilocybin’s effect as a modulator of major connectivity hubs of the amygdala. Psilocybin decreases the connectivity between important nodes linked to emotion processing like the frontal pole or the striatum. Future studies are needed to clarify whether connectivity changes predict therapeutic effects in psychiatric patients.

Grimm, O., Kraehenmann, R., Preller, K. H., Seifritz, E., & Vollenweider, F. X. (2018). Psilocybin modulates functional connectivity of the amygdala during emotional face discrimination. European Neuropsychopharmacology. 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2018.03.016
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Acute ketamine challenge increases resting state prefrontal-hippocampal connectivity in both humans and rats.



Aberrant prefrontal-hippocampal (PFC-HC) connectivity is disrupted in several psychiatric and at-risk conditions. Advances in rodent functional imaging have opened the possibility that this phenotype could serve as a translational imaging marker for psychiatric research. Recent evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies has indicated an increase in PFC-HC coupling during working-memory tasks in both schizophrenic patients and at-risk populations, in contrast to a decrease in resting-state PFC-HC connectivity. Acute ketamine challenge is widely used in both humans and rats as a pharmacological model to study the mechanisms of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor hypofunction in the context of psychiatric disorders.


We aimed to establish whether acute ketamine challenge has consistent effects in rats and humans by investigating resting-state fMRI PFC-HC connectivity and thus to corroborate its potential utility as a translational probe.


Twenty-four healthy human subjects (12 females, mean age 25 years) received intravenous doses of either saline (placebo) or ketamine (0.5 mg/kg body weight). Eighteen Sprague-Dawley male rats received either saline or ketamine (25 mg/kg). Resting-state fMRI measurements took place after injections, and the data were analyzed for PFC-HC functional connectivity.


In both species, ketamine induced a robust increase in PFC-HC coupling, in contrast to findings in chronic schizophrenia.


This translational comparison demonstrates a cross-species consistency in pharmacological effect and elucidates ketamine-induced alterations in PFC-HC coupling, a phenotype often disrupted in pathological conditions, which may give clue to understanding of psychiatric disorders and their onset, and help in the development of new treatments.

Grimm, O., Gass, N., Weber-Fahr, W., Sartorius, A., Schenker, E., Spedding, M., … & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2015). Acute ketamine challenge increases resting state prefrontal-hippocampal connectivity in both humans and rats. Psychopharmacology, 1-11.
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